So what should we make of Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler becoming the first assistant coaches hired by new Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson?
First, it’s important to understand Wilson’s defensive philosophy. Yes, he’s an offensive guy, and a very good one, and that means he knows what defenses are hard to beat.
In his view, power running football no longer dominates the college game. Sure, Wisconsin has thrived with that approach, and teams such as Nevada, Navy and Georgia Tech love to run, but basically the pass is king.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Wilson went for Mallory, a secondary guy, and Ekeler, a linebacker coach, to build his defense. They will be co-defensive coordinators with Mallory also handling the secondary and Ekeler coaching the linebackers.
“While some might think the Big Ten is more run-oriented and physical, the game has evolved,” Wilson said. “In college, it’s from the back (secondary) to the front (the line). You need to have someone who understands how to structure the secondary for run support.”
So what is Wilson’s defensive style?
“In my world, some three-men structures (a 3-4 defensive front) have been successful,” he said. “Some teams are heavy on zone. Some teams play a lot of man coverage in their schemes. The thing with 3-4 systems is that look is clean. I’ve had issues with all of them.”
That leads to Wilson’s top priority.
“You’ve got to understand how to kill the run. You try to get a team into being one dimensional.”
Mallory and Ekeler have one top priority, according to Wilson, and that is, “They need to understand how to play run defense. You do that so when you play Ohio State or Wisconsin or Iowa, the great run teams, you can move it into a back-end game.”
In other words, force those teams to throw. Don’t be surprised if IU uses a 4-3 defensive scheme to do that. It’s the system used at Nebraska and New Mexico.
Both coaches have had plenty of defensive success, although Mallory faced Mission Impossible while at New Mexico. The Lobos lost scholarships from the academic fraud that occurred under former coach Rocky Long. Plus, they had switched to a 4-3 defense from Long’s 3-3-5 approach, and the talent wasn’t up to the switch. Finally, they played a schedule full of strong offenses, including Oregon. The result –- they gave up 44.3 points a game, the worst in the nation, and went 1-11 this season.
Mallory had a lot more success during stops at LSU, Oklahoma State and Maryland. He also was the secondary coach for two years at Indiana under his father, Bill, the winningest football coach in school history. He was the defensive coordinator at Western Kentucky and an offensive line coach at Army.
Doug Mallory has coached in seven bowl games and was on LSU’s 2008 national title squad.
Ekeler was the linebacker coach at Nebraska the last three years. He also coached at Oklahoma under Wilson and at LSU.
“Both men bring unparalleled character, energy, experience, enthusiasm and winning attitudes,” Wilson said in a university release. “This is a great start to the foundation we are building here.”
Also, it looks like Mark Hagen, the former IU linebacker and current Purdue linebacker coach, will return to Bloomington.
Nothing is official, but Boiler All-America defensive end Ryan Kerrigan tweeted this -– “Sad to see Coach Hagen go but I wish him all the best. Thanks coach for getting me to Purdue.”
Hagan was an all-Big Ten linebacker at IU in the early 1990s. He coached at Purdue for 10 years. He also coached at Northern Illinois for three years.
According to Rivals.com’s Tom Dienhart, Hagen will coach the defensive line and special teams. Hagen previously coached special teams at Purdue.
Wilson said in an earlier interview that many of the IU coaches would contribute to special teams.
It’s no surprise all these guys are defensive coaches. Wilson wants to deal with the defense first because of how crucial that will be in turning the Hoosiers into a consistently winning program.